As the second largest country in the world, there’s no denying that Canada is impressive. The country’s enormous size means there are almost 100 universities found in Canada, spread out from coast to coast to coast. From the Maritimes to the Rockies, Canada’s a beautiful place to live and learn.

Most of Canada’s universities are English speaking, but students can also study in one of the country’s French language institutions.

In Canada, universities issue bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. Most universities offer student housing (also called student residences) and meal plans, which is in addition to the cost of tuition fees.

Every year, Canadian universities are ranked by the Canadian publication Maclean’s, as well as by QS World University Rankings. The latest results ranked the University of Toronto 20th in the world. Vancouver’s University of British Columbia came in 32nd place. McGill University, located in Montreal, took 39th place. In all, eight Canadian universities ranked in the top 200, fifteen in the top 250 institutions worldwide.

International students at a glance

According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education, there are almost 300,000 international students currently studying in Canada. It’s the country that ranks 7th for most popular international study destination. About 8 percent of the Canadian university population comes from abroad. Although students come from 190 countries around the world, almost 60 percent originate from only five countries: China, India, Korea, France and Saudi Arabia.

Programs popular with international students include business, engineering and social sciences.

Tuition costs

When attending university in Canada as an international student, your tuition fees are commonly higher than if you were a Canadian citizen. This is mainly because students and their parents have not been paying Canadian taxes, which generate funds for universities and colleges.

Some estimates peg international tuition fees at about two to four times the cost of tuition paid by Canadian students. Tuition for undergraduate degrees starts around $10,000 for international students, graduate degrees around $18,000 per year. Certain degrees, including becoming a medical doctor, can be much higher. For more information, see your preferred university’s international office.


International students are generally not eligible for Canadian government or bank student loans. You may apply for a student loan from your country of origin before leaving, or look into an educational organization that specializes in loans for international studies.

International Student Centre

Universities with a large international population often have an international student centre. This centre helps those new to Canada make the transition to their new country and city. Many will offer orientation services, health services, and information on visas, permits and housing.

Do I need a visa?

If you don’t have Canadian citizenship, you might need a visa to study in Canada. See the Government of Canada’s website to see if residents of your country are required to apply for a visa before entering. If you don’t need one, you must still have proper identification, travel documents (such as a passport) and meet eligibility requirements. You will also need a valid study permit.

What is a study permit?

A study permit is a document that allows international students to study in Canada. Permits are issued by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). Study permits are required for any course longer than six months. If you are taking a shorter course but think you might continue your studies in Canada afterwards, you should also apply for a permit. Otherwise, you won’t be able to extend your stay from within Canada – you will need to leave and apply for your study permit from outside of the country.

Attending a designated school

In order to qualify for a study permit, students must first be accepted into a designated learning institution or DLI. You will need to provide the school’s DLI number and proof of acceptance with your study permit’s application.

All Canadian elementary and secondary schools are designated, but not all post-secondary institutions qualify. To see if the university you wish to attend is designated for international students, please see the Government of Canada website. They provide an up to date list of all designated learning institutions.

What documents do I need to provide?

When applying for your study permit, you will need to provide certain documentation.

Proof of acceptance: The original letter of acceptance into a designated institution must be sent along with your application.

Proof of identity: You will also need to provide your valid passport, as well as the passports for any family member that will be coming to Canada with you. You also need to provide two passport photos for each person. For certain countries, other travel documents are acceptable proof of identity. Please see the Government of Canada’s website for up to date information.

Proof of financial support: As part of your study permit application, you must prove you have the means to support yourself and any family members that accompany you to Canada.

Letter of explanation: You also need a short letter explaining why you are applying for a study permit.

New rules regarding Canadian study permits

Please note, new rules came into effect as of June 1st 2014. When you hold a permit to study in Canada, the law states you must be actively pursuing your studies. If you are not making timely progress towards your degree, or you are no longer enrolled in your program, you can lose your study permit. Universities must report your current status to Citizenship and Immigration Canada. You could also be asked by an immigration officer for proof of continued enrollment.

Under the new rules, study permits now expire 90 days after finishing your university program and receiving your transcript or degree. This rule is in effect for those who applied for their Canadian study permit on or after June 1st 2014.

Working in Canada while in University

The new rules also brought changes to the ability to work while studying in Canada. The updated rules make it easier for students to work while they go to school. Most full-time international students are now allowed to work part-time off campus, and full-time during school breaks. Separate work permits are not necessary for those who meet the requirements, but a Canadian Social Insurance Number (a government issued number needed to apply to jobs in Canada) is required.